Gary Sinise, Diana Scarwid, Pat Hingle. Sinise is outstanding as President Harry Truman, the onetime farmer who led the nation through some of its most difficult times. 1996/color/127 min/NR/fullscreen.
Harry S. Truman had a hard row to hoe as the 33rd president and he never enjoyed popularity while in office. Think about what occurred on Truman's watch: the bombing of Hiroshima, a nationwide railroad strike, the rise of the Southern States' Rights Party, integration of the armed forces, the ascendancy of McCarthyism, the early cold war, and finally the Korean Conflict and Truman's decision to fire General MacArthur. Few American presidents have been faced with more difficult and dangerous times than Truman. It wasn't until some 50 years later that Harry Truman, a farmer from Missouri, got his due appreciation in the history books. Truman follows the man from his beginnings as an artillery officer in WWI through his connections with Missouri's Pendergast political machine and onward to Washington. The always-excellent Gary Sinise is a perfect fit for the Truman character, having obviously studied the President's plainspoken Missouri twang and ramrod-straight bearing at great length. Diana Scarwid is also very good as Truman's long-suffering wife Bess; the film studies the relationship between the two in some depth, and also sheds light on the men who surrounded Truman in Washington. Truman's chief failing is that in its effort to detail 40 years of the man's life, certain historical events are given short shrift in order to fit them all in. Nonetheless, Sinise inhabits the character well; the scene where the President ruminates on dining alone in the White House (while Bess is back in Missouri) is a great, understated comment on the loneliness, isolation, and stress of the job. --Jerry Renshaw